Book Review: Full Gospel, Fractured Minds

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I discovered this book almost by accident in a second-hand bookshop, but after reading it, feel it deserves the widest possible readership in its intended audience. Regular readers will know what I seek to hold in tension a pursuit of the things of the Holy Spirit (what might be called charismatic Christianity) and a passion for academic theology. The two are not always easy bedfellows, despite some fine examples of Spirit-filled scholars, as I have blogged about before, given that the charge of anti-intellectualism is often levelled against Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians. Currently a missionary, and a former pastor, Rick Nunez is a convinced Pentecostal who is nonetheless concerned that some in and around his tribe are guilty of neglecting some of what God has given them.

Nunez writes this book with a passionate generosity towards those he disagrees with, and a penetrating knowledge of both the contemporary problem of Charismatic/Pentecostal anti-Intellectualism and (in America, at least) its historical causes. This later places him in a strong position to constructively critique what he is warning about. The author’s Pentecostal convictions lead to the first part of the titular question, ‘Full Gospel’, as he argues that rather than seeing the intellect as the pathway to doubt and scepticism, a healthy Pentecostal faith will in fact embrace the gift of the mind as much as the more ‘traditionally spectacular’ Pentecostal distinctives of the miraculous and tongues.

Nunez confidently walks the reader through three key areas; a Biblical theology of the Mind, the anti-Intellectual history of evangelicalism(s) and Pentecostalism(s) and the challenges posed by culture. Each of these is done with constant reference to contemporary and historically influential figures, from Donald Gee to Joyce Meyer, in a way that is graciously firm. Nunez’s treatment of Meyer is particular intriguing; I need to go and read her book Battlefield of the Mind, as if he is quoting her accurately, it is deeply problematic. Do not read this, however, as Nunez being anti-anyone, but rather positively painting a picture of human flourishing in the light of a fallen world, where one example of brokenness is an inability, refusal or tendency-not-to embrace the gift of the intellect.

As a British Christian, it was particularly interesting to read more about the origins of the Pentecostal movement, and also some of the problems with a selection of key figures in nineteenth-century evangelicalism, whose influence we feel in a myriad of ways. I hope to get around, one day, to reading a little more in this area. Interesting, Wesley gets a good mention, demonstrating that Nunez is not writing a narrow book, but one focused on an international, expanding movement, with a common flaw.

As we come to a close, I quote from the back cover; “Do you sometimes feel you have to check your intellect at the church door, leaving reason behind to embrace the Christian faith? Do you hunger for a “full gospel” that includes the mind as well as heart and Spirit?”. If so, having read this book, I would warmly commend it to you, and encourage especially those engaged in academic pursuits who are in Charismatic/Pentecostal churches to read it. Better yet, I would love for pastors and leaders of this persuasion to read it and consider it – both to better love and serve their ‘intellectual’ brothers and sisters, but also to think about some of the gentle but important critiques Nunez makes.

As you can probably tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Well written, gracefully argued, and distinctively Pentecostal, Nunez has done his brothers and sisters a real service. I will be making use of it as I look to disciple theology students with Theology Network, and hope that my friends in the Society of Vineyard Scholars and elsewhere will be encouraged by this book. The dream, of course, would be that leaders in movements who are the worst culprits of anti-intellectualism might read this book, and reclaim the full Gospel, the Gospel of the Kingdom that transforms our hearts, bodies, and minds, by the Power of the Holy Spirit.

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2 Responses

  1. Skip Griffin

    What a well-penned confirmation of the gifting of intellect and faith…

    If in fact, we are confronted with challenges of Pentecostal expression vs our intellect, are we not playing arbiter of God’s gifts rather than listener and participating receiver of them?

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